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MassTerful Identity

Reviewed Mar. 25, 2008 by Armin

Industry / Education Tags /

MassArt Logo, Before and After

Colleges, schools or any other educational institution devoted to design and art must, in one way or another, reflect its commitment to those areas — specifically, its identity must lead by example. Like MICA or Ringling College of Art and Design, just to name a couple we have reviewed here, MassArt is embracing the influence that a revitalized identity can have in the perception of an arts and design institution. This is specially important for a 135-year-old institution — the first and only independent public college of art in the United States, and the first art school to grant a degree — that has to compete with dozens of other schools that don’t carry the weight of more than a century.

Working with brand consultancy Minelli, Inc., MassArt engaged in an eighteen-month-long planning and assessment process that resulted in a strategic marketing plan that aimed to raise the institution’s profile, and one of the key elements to achieve this would be its identity. MassArt assembled a committee of faculty, staff, students, foundation directors, and trustees to oversee the project, who selected Moth Design — which features four MassArt alumni — out of seven design firms that responded to requests for proposal. With a new institution name, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (formally established in October of 2007), and a clear sense of renewal, MassArt established objectives for the new identity:

To present MassArt consistently and with confidence.
To represent a level of skill, quality, and creativity appropriate for a leading college of art and design.
To establish a visual signature that is distinct and recognizable as Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
To retain the significant brand equity in “MassArt” while firmly establishing the college’s new formal name.
To reflect the energy and spirit of the individuals that comprise MassArt’s diverse community.

The new identity is a creatively handsome solution. It uses a single graphic device to become memorable and unique without having to resort to visual pyrotechnics that would somehow, magically signal a fountain of creativity flowing from this corner of Massachusetts. Cropping the “S” at the same angle as the “A” is a rather enjoyable conceptual solution as it unites and blends the notion of Art with the place. Or as MassArt explains it:

The simple device of cropping the “S” in “Mass” on the same angle as the “A” in “Art” visually propels “Art” to the foreground. The “Art” advancing to the foreground of “Mass” represents an institution driving art and design to the forefront of public consciousness.

What’s great about this wordmark, is that it really doesn’t need to be too rationalized, it simply works as an identifier that stands apart from other educational institution logos. And the rest of the identity system is equally well thought out and considered, establishing a consistently varied system through flexibility in configuration and color — and those knocked out logos that look pretty great.

Alternate configurations.

Alternate configurations.

Color palette.

Color palette.

Knock-out usage.

Knock-out usage.

One-color usage.

One-color usage.

Signage rendering.

Signage rendering.

Apart from the identity basics, Moth Design developed a system for collateral materials that revolves around the 23-degree angle established by the “A” — which is originally Gotham, for anyone keeping count — and exploits it to great effect. Using the angle to form fields of color, or as a holding device and paired with a “screen” pattern of interspersed, even lines set at a perpendicular angle of 67 degrees, glued together by Interstate and Sabon as the house fonts, the system provides flexibility while establishing consistency and giving the school a controlled, ever-so-slightly edgier look that manages to convey their commitment to growing the institution and moving it forward without losing sight of its heritage and long history.

Business Card


Details of business card and letterhead.

Identity standards manual

Identity standards manual detail

Identity standards manual.

President’s Report brochure, and details.

This is a really great identity, that has been expertly crafted and conceived to be solid, recognizable and expandable — a task now headed by MassArt’s brand new and first-ever marketing office. The identity has been rolling out since December of 2007, with the introduction of the logo on the web site, stationery suite, interim signage and will continue for the rest of the year as they start using new print marketing materials and deploying a new web site being developed by Tank Design. It’s work like this that reminds me that identity design can still be simple, memorable and smart.

Thanks to Scott Murray, an MFA student at MassArt for the tip, and to Jeremy Thompson, Director of Marketing at MassArt, for sharing the information and all the wonderful samples.



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Brand New, is a division of UnderConsideration, displaying opinions, and focusing solely, on corporate and brand identity work. More…

UnderConsideration is a graphic design firm generating its own projects, initiatives, and content while taking on limited client work. Run by Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit in Bloomington, IN.

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